Definition, Benefits, and Best Practices

Live chat is becoming a common support feature on many business websites, especially in the tech and marketing spaces. This guide to live chat support will teach you everything you need to know to get started with this powerful customer service tool:

There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started!

What is live chat support?

Live chat customer support is exactly what it sounds like: a messenger tool that allows your company to communicate with website visitors in real-time.

All you need to do is set up an account, add a chatbox to your site, and you can start answering user questions right away.

Your website’s visitors will typically be able to chat from a widget on your website that looks something like this:

A real-life live chat support example

Then, you and/or your support agents can respond to visitors from your web browser, desktop software, and/or mobile apps (depending on which live chat support tool you use).

How can live chat customer service help your business?

You can use live chat in several ways:

  • To answer basic visitor questions in a timely fashion
  • To encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletter or buy a product
  • To offer technical support

Most importantly, you can use live chat to connect with customers in the way they want to connect: 41% of users prefer live chat over receiving support by phone or email [1].

In other words, if you want your customers to look forward to communicating with your business, you need to provide a live chat option for customer support.

How can a small business provide live chat support?

Providing customer service through live chat can seem out of reach to small business owners. After all, in order to have a live chat, you need to have an employee ready to hop into the chat at any time, right?

Well, it depends on the software you choose. Many live chat services offer tools that can make things easier for small teams. Some examples are:

  • Chatroom-style chat areas. These dedicated chat areas for customer service agents make it easy to switch between conversations, allowing agents to manage multiple conversations at once.
  • Canned responses. These are saved copies of answers to common questions and statements that you can use to speed up live chat conversations.
  • Categorization tools. These help you keep track of different types of conversations. For example, you can put sales conversations into a separate category from support conversations.
  • Automation rules. These rules can help you speed up common types of conversations in a variety of ways. For example, you can make sure that questions with certain words in them are sent directly to technical support so that existing customers can skip talking to sales.
  • Ticketing systems. These systems automatically turn queries that come in when you’re offline into support tickets that your team can address when they log in again. Many tools with this feature allow you to sort tickets based on their content so that they’re always sent to the correct team or person.

These tools can make it possible for a small team to deal with a variety of conversations efficiently throughout the day.

Some live chat tools also come bundled with chatbots, allowing you to automate conversations while you’re offline. This makes it possible to answer common questions in a timely fashion at any time of day or night.

Budget doesn’t need to be a concern either. As you’ll see in the next section, many live chat tools are quite affordable. Some even offer free plans suitable for brand-new businesses that don’t have a lot of website traffic yet.

How to set up live chat support?

If you want to get started with live chat support for your own business, here’s a quick guide to setting things up.

  1. Choose a live chat tool 💬
  2. Set up your live chat tool 👨‍💻
  3. Start chatting with your visitors 🎬
  4. Refine your processes ⚙️

1. Choose a live chat tool 💬

Every live chat tool has its own unique interface and features, making it essential to choose the right one for your needs.

Here’s a look at three of our favorite live chat support tools:


Live chat support tools: Livechat homepage

👉 LiveChat offers a variety of excellent features, including:

  • Canned (pre-made) responses to speed up conversations
  • Pre-chat and post-chat surveys
  • Inactivity message
  • Ticket system for managing inquiries that come in while you’re away
  • Team management tools
  • Advanced real-time reporting

LiveChat also offers 200+ integrations with popular business tools like WooCommerce, Salesforce, and Slack. You can also use LiveChat with a variety of website builders and content management systems (CMSs), including Squarespace and WordPress. This makes it easy to incorporate LiveChat into your existing business systems.

The one drawback of LiveChat is that it doesn’t offer much in the way of automation options. If you want access to advanced automation, you’ll have to combine LiveChat with ChatBot (a separate service from the same developer).

💳 Pricing: LiveChat plans start at $20 per month per user, billed annually. You can test it out with a free trial.

🎯 Who this tool is best for: Users who want to integrate a live chat tool with their existing business systems.


Live chat support tools: Olark homepage

👉 Olark offers everything you need to provide excellent live chat support, including:

  • Extensive chatbox customization options
  • Live chat automation rules to increase engagement and speed up conversations
  • Customizable offline message
  • Team management tools
  • Searchable transcripts
  • Real-time analytics

Olark is quite easy to use and can be integrated with a variety of popular business tools, including WooCommerce, Zendesk, and Salesforce. There are also easy-install tools for setting up the live chat box on a variety of website builders and CMSs, including Squarespace, BigCommerce, and WordPress.

Olark also offers more advanced automation than LiveChat. You can set up automation rules to make sure customer inquiries go to the right team members, create automated responses for certain situations, and more. If you want to add a chatbot to your site, however, you’ll need to pay separately for CoPilot (or invest in Olark Pro).

💳 Pricing: Olark offers one plan at $29 per month per seat, with the ability to save 35% if you buy a two-year plan. If you want to create even more robust live chat customer support, you can reach out for a custom quote for Olark Pro.

🎯 Who this tool is best for: Users who want to partially automate simple live chat conversations with users.


Live chat support tools: Tidio homepage

👉 Tidio offers numerous features for running live chat support:

  • Live visitors list
  • Customizable offline message
  • Unlimited chatbot creation (conversations are limited on certain plans)
  • Ticketing system
  • Team management tools
  • Analytics

Tidio is an interesting option because the features of automation tools for live conversations are limited on most plans, but you’ll get access to a built-in chatbot builder on any plan. The chatbot builder is quite easy to use and there’s no limit to the number of chatbot “stories” (their word for conversations) you can build.

Tidio is compatible with a variety of website builders and CMSs, including Squarespace and WordPress. There’s also advanced Shopify integration, complete with order management tools, on all paid plans. However, Tidio’s number of integrations with popular business tools is pretty limited.

💳 Pricing: Tidio offers a free plan allowing you to run up to 100 live chat conversations and 50 chatbot conversations per month. Premium plans start at $15.83 per user per month. Note that some of the features listed here are only available on a premium plan.

🎯 Who this tool is best for: Tidio is ideal for people who want a live chat tool with built-in chatbot functionality. Tidio is also a great choice for businesses on a tight budget.

2. Set up your live chat tool 👨‍💻

Next, you’ll want to set up your live chat tool on your website. There are a few steps to making this happen:

  • Set up the chatbox. Choose the colors and other display settings for your chatbox.
  • Set up automation. Create an offline message and configure any other automation options you have access to.
  • Set up categorization. If your chosen tool offers it, you’ll want to create separate categories for sales conversations and support conversations. Later on you’ll want to create subcategories for common types of conversations, but it’s easier to figure out appropriate subcategories after you’ve been running the chat for a few months.
  • Install the chatbox on your site. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll need to install a plugin to connect your live chat tool with your website (or manually add a code snippet). If you’re using another CMS or website builder you may need to paste the code directly into your website.

And voila, you’re ready for step three:

3. Start chatting with your visitors 🎬

With the tech set up, it’s time to start having conversations!

You can do a few things to make sure this step goes smoothly:

  • Make sure everyone on your team knows what, if any, types of conversations they’ll be responsible for.
  • Walk employees through the software before they use it to make sure they understand what they’re doing.
  • Write scripts for greeting customers, answering common questions, and encouraging users to subscribe to your newsletter and/or make a purchase. If your current live chat software plan doesn’t let you automate these things, create these as separate documents that your team can access at any time.

You should also check if the tool you’re using has pre-written scripts for some of these conversations. If it does, you can save some time by editing these conversations to suit your needs instead of starting from scratch.

4. Refine your processes ⚙️

If you want to enjoy long-term success with your live chat support, your setup shouldn’t end when the first chat begins. You should, in fact, be reevaluating and possibly adjusting your live chat setup every few months.

The best live chat tools offer conversation analytics that can help you identify patterns in what makes a conversation successful – and what doesn’t. You can also learn about this by asking your team to pay attention to common questions and other conversation patterns.

You can use this information to refine your live chat systems in a few ways:

  • Add new scripts based on questions that come up frequently in chats
  • Change the wording of certain scripts to improve your success rate
  • Identify team members who are struggling and help them improve their workflow

This can help you improve your conversions and customer satisfaction rates over time.

Get started with live chat support 🚀

Live chat is one of the best ways to connect with potential customers and provide support to your existing customers.

You don’t have to be a big business to take advantage of this amazing tool either; there are lots of tools to make live chat manageable for small teams.

🧰 Some of our favorite live chat tools are:

  • LiveChat for businesses that want maximum integration potential
  • Olark for businesses that want more chatbox customization and automation options
  • Tidio for businesses that want built-in live chat support

Once you’ve chosen a live chat tool, you can set it up on your website, create scripts to facilitate faster conversations, and train your team to use it to connect with both potential and existing customers.

If you’re using WordPress, we have a step-by-step guide on how to set up WordPress live chat using the LiveChat service.

Finally, remember to pay attention to your analytics so that you can improve your conversations over time.

👨‍🎓 Want to learn about more ways to connect with your customers? Check out our guides on 👉 How to Use the Online Customer Journey and WordPress Help Desk Plugins.

And if you still have any questions about offering live chat support for your business, let us know in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply